California is making so much solar energy the rest of the country looks like a joke

  • California is the poster child for solar energy: in 2016, 13% of the state’s power came from solar sources. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, California is in the lead for the cumulative amount of solar electric capacity installed in 2016.
  • In fact, the California is generating so much solar energy that it is resorting to paying other states to take the excess electricity in order to prevent overloading power lines. According to the Los Angeles Times, Arizona residents have already saved millions in 2017 thanks to California’s contribution.
  • The state, which produced little to no solar energy just 15 years ago, has made strides — it single-handedly has nearly half of the country’s solar electricity generating capacity. 
  • According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, California reached a milestone: for a few hours, more than half the state’s power needs were sourced from solar energy. This put wholesale energy prices in the negative. Read more. (6/22/17, 12:15 PM)

California is asking residents to turn off their lights during the eclipse

  • On Monday, August 21, the United States will experience its first solar eclipse in 99 years.
  • And while that shadow will produce a once-in-a-lifetime view for millions of Americans from coast-to-coast it will also wreak just a little bit of havoc on clean energy in California.
  • During the eclipse, northern California will see 76% of the sun’s rays blocked by the moon, while southern California will see 62% of the sun’s rays blocked, according to Cal Eclipse.
  • During the eclipse, the site explained, solar power generation in the state is expected to go from 64% to 83% capacity at the start of the eclipse to 15% to 37% capacity at its height around 10:22 a.m. and then return to normal capacity once it is over.
  • However, during the eclipse, Bloomberg noted, more than 9,000 megawatts of solar power may go down across the country, which is the equivalent of about nine nuclear reactors and is enough to generate power for about 7 million homes. Steven Greenlee, spokesman for California’s grid operator, told Bloomberg that the state will need to fill a gap of about 6,008 megawatts.
  • So to help out solar energy consumers during the height of the eclipse the California Public Utilities Commission is asking all Californians to do one simple thing: Turn off their lights. Read more (7/25/17)

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South Australia to get $1bn solar farm and world's biggest battery
System will include 3.4m solar panels and 1.1m batteries, with operations set to begin by end of 2017

A huge $1bn solar farm and battery project will be built and ready to operate in South Australia’s Riverland region by the end of the year.

The battery storage developer Lyon Group says the system will be the biggest of its kind in the world, boasting 3.4m solar panels and 1.1m batteries.

The company says construction will start in months and the project will be built whatever the outcome of the SA government’s tender for a large battery to store renewable energy.

A Lyon Group partner, David Green, says the system, financed by investors and built on privately owned scrubland in Morgan, will be a “significant stimulus” for South Australia.

“The combination of the solar and the battery will significantly enhance the capacity available in the South Australian market,” he said.

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Scientists can use the sun to make seawater safe to drink

  • While access to clean drinking water remains an issue in many parts of the world, there’s no shortage of water on the planet: 97% of Earth’s water can be found in our oceans.
  • Turning the ocean’s saltwater into freshwater is generally an elaborate process that requires a lot of energy, but a team of scientists at Rice University’s Center for Nanotechnology Enabled Water Treatment (NEWT) have created a new method using nothing but sunlight.
  • Now, thanks to researchers at Rice University, an off-grid desalination technology is available requiring only solar energy.
  • The federally funded study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, developed the “nanophotonics-enabled solar membrane distillation” technology, or NESMD. Read more (6/20/17)

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Scientists design solar cell that captures nearly all energy of solar spectrum

A George Washington University researcher helped design and construct a prototype for a new solar cell that integrates multiple cells stacked into a single device capable of capturing nearly all of the energy in the solar spectrum.

The new design, which converts direct sunlight to electricity with 44.5 percent efficiency, has the potential to become the most efficient solar cell in the world.

The approach is different from the solar panels commonly seen on rooftops or in fields. The new device uses concentrator photovoltaic (CPV) panels that use lenses to concentrate sunlight onto tiny, micro-scale solar cells. Because of their small size – less than one millimeter square – solar cells that utilize more sophisticated materials can be developed cost effectively.

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